postmortem examination

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inspection or investigation, especially as a means of diagnosing disease.
breast examination in the nursing interventions classification, a nursing intervention defined as inspection and palpation of the breasts and related areas.
mental status examination a standardized procedure to gather data to determine etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment for patients with mental disorders.
pelvic examination physical assessment of the internal pelvic organs. It includes inspection with a speculum, a papanicolaou smear, bimanual palpation, and a rectovaginal examination.
physical examination examination of the bodily state of a patient by ordinary physical means, as inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation.
postmortem examination autopsy.


(aw'top-sē), Avoid the mispronunciation autop'sy.
1. An examination of the organs of a dead body to determine the cause of death or to study the pathologic changes present. Synonym(s): necropsy
2. In the terminology of the ancient Greek school of empirics, the intentional reproduction of an effect, event, or circumstance that occurred in the course of a disease, and observation of its influence in ameliorating or aggravating the patient's symptoms.
[G. autopsia, seeing with one's own eyes]

postmortem examination


postmortem examination

Etymology: L, post, after, mors, death, examinatio
an examination of a body after death by a person trained in pathology. Also called autopsy,
Usage notes: (informal)


A postmortem examination of a body, which helps determine cause of death and identify any diseases that had not been detected while the patient was alive, or which confirms the presence of conditions diagnosed before the patient died.

Autopsy types 
• Biopsy only—A minimalist postmortem examination in which the prosector examines the organs, but only samples small fragments (biopsies) for histologic examination. 
• Chest only—An autopsy in which only the lungs and heart are examined; findings in a chest only autopsy are used to ID an occluding thrombus in the coronary arteries, massive patientE, or evaluate a person for compensation under the Black Lung Compensation act of 1969.
• Complete—An autopsy in which the thoracic, abdominal and cranial cavities are examined. 
• Head only—An autopsy in which the pathology of interest is presumed to reside entirely in the cranial cavity. 
• No head—An autopsy examining the chest and abdominal cavity without cranial cavity.

Infections (potentially fatal) that may pass to prosectors
Blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, diphtheria, erysipeloid, HBV (30% of seroconversion with infected blood exposure), HCV (up to 10% risk), HIV (0.3% risk), lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rabies, streptococci, TB (exposures as brief as 10 minutes have resulted in transmission; 10% of Finnish pathologists in active PM practice have occupational TB; autopsy-transmitted outbreaks of TB have occurred in NY, LA, Chicago and Arkansas), tularaemia, viral haemorrhagic fevers (Marburg, Ebola, Lassa), yellow fever. Two cases of possible transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to histology technicians (not autopsy prosectors) have been reported.

postmortem examination



performed or occurring after death.

postmortem decomposition
changes that take place at a fairly predictable rate, depending on body temperature at the time of death, and environmental temperature once death has taken place. The size of the body and the presence or absence of bacterial infection also influence these changes.
Rigor mortis is the first of these changes after cessation of circulation and respiration. Within 2 to 4 hours after death depletion of glycogen stores prevents synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Without ATP the muscle fibers do not relax, resulting in rigid contraction of the fibers and immobilization of the joints. The rigor first occurs in the involuntary muscles and then involves the voluntary musculature, starting with the head and neck and descending gradually to the trunk and lower extremities. The process usually takes about 45 hours and continues for about 96 hours.
Another noticeable change is cooling of the body, which occurs rather rapidly once circulation stops and the heat-regulating center in the brain no longer is functioning. This postmortem loss of body heat is called algor mortis.
Decomposition of the tissues begins almost as soon as blood supply stops. With the breakdown of hemoglobin, discoloration, or livor mortis, appears as mottled, reddened areas that can be mistaken for bruises, particularly in the extremities or other parts of the body where there is a pooling of blood. As deterioration of tissues continues and bacterial fermentation occurs the tissues soften and then liquefy. Refrigeration or some other method of cooling the body inhibits this process.
postmortem examination
a careful dissection of a cadaver with the objective of deciding the cause of death. Called also autopsy or necropsy examination.
postmortem inspection
that part of a meat inspection or food inspection at an abattoir that is conducted after the animal has been killed and dressed. Supplements the antemortem examination.
postmortem report
a detailed report of a postmortem examination of a cadaver, including a complete identification of the animal, the body condition, age, sex, species, breed, parity and the changes observed.
References in periodicals archive ?
6,16) More than 80% of the surveyed institutions include some material regarding postmortem examination in their coursework.
It was unclear whether the postmortem examination of deceased Ala Din was conducted or not, however, doctors said that extracts from his body have been sent to laboratory.
A postmortem examination revealed Mr Singh died from severe head injuries inflicted by "repeated and multiple forceful blows from a heavy blunt instrument, likely to be a hammer".
A postmortem examination will be carried out to determine the cause of death.
Results of a postmortem examination carried out on Friday proved inconclusive and forensic tests are going on to establish the cause of death.
A Home Office postmortem examination will now take place to establish the cause of the man's death.
A postmortem examination revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol in Mr Carlton's system.
A postmortem examination gave the cause of death as a single stab wound.
Detective Inspector Campbell Farquharson said the death was being treated as murder after a postmortem examination.
A postmortem examination showed he had died from severe head injuries.
It is usually identified in a biopsy specimen of brain lesions or during postmortem examination.
They are awaiting the results of a postmortem examination.